Firm hand needed to keep children safe online

Parents should always monitor what their children are watching and guide them on the kinds of information they are allowed to access online.

HAVING parental control applications or software installed in digital devices is crucial as more children use smartphones and laptops for home-based teaching and learning (PdPR), say cyber security experts.

They say that apart from having these apps, parents should also monitor their children’s online activities by checking their gadgets regularly to ensure they are not accessing negative content on the Internet.

Malaysian Cyber Consumer Association president Siraj Jalil said there were several parental control apps that could be downloaded for free.

“Parents should have full control when it comes to their children surfing the Internet.

“Even typing one word on the Net can bring up multiple search results.

“There are parents who think the Internet is just another platform for entertainment.

More children are using smartphones for learning due to the pandemic.More children are using smartphones for learning due to the pandemic.

“For their children’s safety, they should control what content their young ones can access,” he said when contacted.

Siraj opined that children had the tendency to look for negative information.

“That is why parents play an important role because they can control what environment their children are in.

“If they have an online tv streaming service, limit their content, if they want to watch YouTube, give them YouTube Kids,” he advised.

He highlighted that parents should also be wary of gaming apps as they contained advertisements that might have unsuitable content.

Jihad Syahida showing the Google Family Link app that she uses to monitor her child’s online activity.Jihad Syahida showing the Google Family Link app that she uses to monitor her child’s online activity.

“Now that parents and children are spending more time at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they should use the opportunity to teach their children about what they should and should not do online.

“This includes how to protect themselves and identify threats on the Internet,” he explained.

Having gadgets at home should not loosen the bond between parents and children, he noted.

“Instead, parents should set house rules on the use of technology.

“This is an issue that many families are facing worldwide.

“At the same time, telco companies can also block unsuitable content from appearing in search results,” said Siraj.

Password protection

Higher Education Ministry Polytechnic and Community College Department senior assistant director Tajul Azhar Mohd Tajul Ariffin said teachers were encouraged to set up a password for every live stream PdPR session.

He explained that without a password, anyone with a link to the session would be able to participate in the stream.

“This is to prevent something akin to ‘Zoom bombing’, where an unwanted person suddenly comes into an online meeting and displays negative images or information.

“By having a password, the stream would be extra secure,” he said, adding that teachers should always ensure that they were the host of each PdPR to control the session.

Tajul Azhar: Online learning sessions should be password protected.Tajul Azhar: Online learning sessions should be password protected.

Tajul Azhar also advised parents to instal parental control programmes to monitor their child’s browsing activities and limit their screen time.

“Parents can take a few basic steps as protection before allowing their child to go online, namely installing a pop-up blocker, making sure that the antivirus or anti-malware is active and using only original software.

“Installing pirated software is dangerous as these types of programmes have loopholes, enabling hackers to get in and take control of a computer.

“Nowadays, even very young children are being exposed to electronic gadgets, and sometimes there is adware that may show links to phishing sites,” he said, adding that anti-malware software was needed to prevent this.

Siraj: There are several parental control apps that can be downloaded for free.Siraj: There are several parental control apps that can be downloaded for free.

Tajul Azhar pointed out that some gadgets had parental control or screentime monitor pre-installed while others could be downloaded via the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

“There are apps that offer in-app purchase, especially games, so having this type of programme can prevent unwanted taps or clicks,” he said.

He added that the apps would also inform parents if there was any installation or download.

Staying safe online

Parent Jihad Syahida Nadia Zakaria, 34, said that she installed Google Family Link to set a time limit on her child’s screentime and regulate bedtime.

“This is to ensure my child does not use her phone or apps such as YouTube Kids over long periods.

“Parental control apps are important so that we can monitor the content that they are watching, as children are easily influenced by what they see.

“I also want to make sure they do not become too attached to their gadgets,” she explained.

Jihad Syahida said controlling children’s exposure to the Internet should be done at an early age so they would be disciplined when surfing the Net.

Tan watching over her children during home-based teaching and learning.Tan watching over her children during home-based teaching and learning.

Marsha Tan, 40, said that she started using a parental control app after her child reported seeing pop-up ads, some of which had left them shaken.

“I also saw that although they were playing children’s mobile games, some of the advertisements were not suitable for their age range.

“I started to think about their safety online as they were watching more YouTube videos and cartoons, although some of the videos were for schoolwork and revision,” she said, adding that she also manually checked their online history.

It is obvious that having parental control is now more important than ever as children now spend more time online.

“The apps not only protect them from inappropriate or offensive materials and websites, but also functions to limit their screen time and monitor their usage of a certain programme or website,” said Tan.

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